Internationally-known muralist Silva addresses Filipino American graduates of UCLA

Eliseo Art Silva at one of his exhibits in L.A.  TFLA Photo by Tet Valdez

Eliseo Art Silva at one of his exhibits in L.A. TFLA Photo by Tet Valdez

By Cecile C. Ochoa

Eliseo Art Silva from Corona, Californa, the muralist behind “Gintong Kasaysayan, Filipino town” mural exhorted Filipino American graduates of UCLA June 14 to reflect the narrative of their heritage’s history in their work in America. He delivered the Commencement speech at the 23rd Annual Pilipino Graduation June 14 at UCLA.

Widely heralded as the creator of the largest and first memorial honoring Filipino American farmworkers in the U.S., Silva is a contemporary artist, teacher and author who has become internationally known for his earliest city-commissioned project, from which he won from a nationally-advertised competition. He was then a 22 year old art student at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

Silva challenged the graduates to reflect on their own ancestors’ contributions to America and write their own narrative. “Whatever path you decide to take, or as I would expect from brave and visionary leaders such as yourselves who create a path of your own: your community awaits you.

He shared his own story upon immigrating to the U.S. and trying to find the Filipinos in L.A. “ I was told to go to Temple and Alvarado”.

“So I drove from Riverside towards that location, and the first thing I saw was a huge McDonald`s ” M ” sign, the largest I`ve ever seen. I said to myself, oh my God! That`s it”?

He told the graduates: “Questions started running through my head: Why are we not visible? Where are the footprints of the pioneers? Where`s our silenced voices? How can we advance and keep on moving forward? It was at that moment I realized that there should be something that holds us back.”

Pilipino graduating class of 2015.  Contributed photo.

Pilipino graduating class of 2015. Contributed photo.

He said “ by sharing my story, I hope I can give all of you a glimpse of visions of the possible, just by asking the hard questions, creating your own path, and writing your own perspective of history”.

Alluding to the lack of awareness of the significant contributions of Filipinos in this country, Silva reminded them to take opportunities to make this legacy known in their future work and in whatever field of endeavor they choose.

“When the mural project came into the picture, I saw it as an opportunity to offer a solution to counter the two main factors the held us back all these time. By finding the largest wall within the district and activating the site with monumental portraits and figures- we can already dispel the legacy of smallness; by filling the entire wall with hidden histories and untold legacies, such as the anti-Filipino riots and the Philippine American War, we are confronting the stigma of shame.”

Silva's exhibit in East LA 2014.   Photo by Evangeline Rodriguez.

Silva’s exhibit in East LA 2014.
Photo by Evangeline Rodriguez.

In an interview with THEFILAMLA, Silva said faculty speaker, Prof. Victor Bascara, shared with him that this event was really designed for the parents.

“It made sense to me, because when I did my own research on this tradition of having a dedicated graduation, I learned that it was the Latinos who first initiated these kinds of graduations, since their parents cannot understand English- so they organize their own grad ceremony”.

Among the coordinators for the event are Melissa Veluz and Winnie Galbadores of Samahang Pilipino. Earlier organizers of the “Pilipino graduation ceremonies” included retired State Health Services administrative judge Cas Tolentino and former Cerritos Mayor Mark Pulido along with his wife Gloria Pulido, who started Samahang Pilipino. Rose Lyn Castro, is current president of Pilipino Alumni Association.

Silva said there were 67 graduates of Philippine American ancestry and those active in the Filipino community at UCLA, who attended the special Commencement ceremonies at the Royce Hall.

Silva’s work has been featured at esteemed places such as the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Conner Contemporary in Washington, D.C., the Cue Art Foundation Gallery in New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Other nationally and internationally advertised public art competitions which he was commissioned for includes: the Millennium War Memorial for US Veterans of all the Wars of the 21st Century in Lompoc, CA; the Jewish American Mural for the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles; the 7,000 sq. foot Gateway Underpass Mural of Riverside, CA; the Choose Respect Mural in Sitka, Alaska; the Normandie Village Mural in LA`s Little Armenia and the Carlos Bulosan Memorial in Seattle, WA.

Silva`s contributions to the art world has been celebrated. He received awards and fellowships from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Getty Arts Institute, the Independence Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation, the National Arts Association, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and was a finalist for the Paul and Daisy Soros Foundation for New Americans.

The National Centennial Commission of the Philippines commissioned him to create installation work for the Philippine Centennial celebrations as part of the International Arts Festival in Boracay Island; and his works was included in the Philippine Centennial Time Capsule. Silva has been profiled by the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Art in America and The Seattle Times.

He received his BFA at Otis and obtained an MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He also attended Riverside Community College where he was awarded the prestigious Roaring Tiger Award for Inspirational Leadership as well as Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Prior to immigrating to the United States in 1989, he attended San Beda College in Alabang and Letran College for his elementary education. He was selected as a full-time scholar by the Philippine government to attend the prestigious Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA).

Silva was awarded the 2014 Most Distinguished Alumni Award from Colegio De San Juan De Letran in Intramuros, Manila, Philippines.

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